Today’s STEAM Activity is making parachutes! This is so simple – you just need a few recycled, reusable items you already have at home. My kids had a blast with this activity; they played with their parachutes all day! 

Materials:

  • Plastic grocery bag
  • Plastic or paper cup
  • String 
  • Scissors

PROCEDURE:

  1. Cut the handles off of the plastic bag. Then cut the bag in half, making it into two large squares. 

2. Poke 4 evenly spaced holes around the top of the cups (alternatively, you can tape the string to the cups)

3. Measure and cut four 12” pieces of string

4. Tie the string to the four corners of the bag (we grabbed the corner and wrapped and tied the string around the corner to attach it)

5. Tie (or tape) one string through each hole in the cup. Make sure you align the parachute above the cup as you tie the strings so the strings don’t get crossed as you attach them. 

6. You’re ready to fly! Climb to the top of your stairs, a balcony, a tree house, playground, or just stand on a chair, then let your parachute fall to the ground below.

7. Repeat the experiment, and change variables like where or the height you’re dropping from, or add a toy in the cup, then see how that affects the parachute drop. 

STEAM CONCEPTS LEARNED:

  • Science: If you drop the cup from your drop point without a parachute it will quickly fall to the ground due to the downward force of gravity. Parachutes float slowly to the ground due to the drag created by the  large surface area. This increases the air resistance drastically and allows the parachute to slowly float to the ground. You’ll notice the more weight you add to the cup, the quicker the parachute falls. This is because the weight is increasing the terminal velocity of the cup, and counteracting the air resistance from the parachute. 
  • Engineering: Changing the parachute design and load in the cup during the test drops are all part of the engineering process. Keep trying new things to see what improves your parachute flight time and what hinders it. We tried two different size cups to compare the difference, and added toys to the cups to see how it changed our drop times. 
  • Math: Have your kids help with measuring, cutting and counting the string for the project. These seemingly simple tasks are a great way to practice math skills and teach kids how math is part of everyday life.

Our parachutes provided an afternoon of entertainment for us, and I’m sure my kids will continue to drop their parachutes for days to come. I hope you give this simple but endlessly entertaining activity a try and let me know how it goes for you!

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